Photo by Karim Shamsi-Basha.
Fire Marshal Frank Brocato recently retired after 42 years of service to the Hoover Fire Department.
In 1976, Hoover Fire Marshal Frank Brocato received an emergency call from a local department store. When he and fellow firemen arrived on the scene, they found a woman lying on gas pumps, about to deliver a baby.
The child would be the first baby any of the men ever delivered.
“There was this huge crowd when we picked the baby up,” Brocato said. “I felt like I just had scored the winning touchdown in an Auburn football game.”
It is this memory along with countless others that stand out vividly in Brocato’s mind. He retired in February after 42 years of service to the Hoover Fire Department. He is one of the department’s longest serving members and the city’s first-ever paramedic and fire marshal.
Brocato was hired as a full-time member of the Hoover Fire Department in 1975.
“The city was really starting to grow,” he said. “There was a core of young and energetic people that were the pioneers.”
In 1979, Chief Tom Bradley named Brocato the city’s first fire marshal. He served in that role for three years until being promoted and named captain over a new fire station in the Riverchase area.
In the 1980s, Brocato recalls how firemen only wore helmets, gloves and a coat and no air packs.
“We’ve had a tremendous turnaround,” Brocato said. “Today, you don’t fight a fire without those things.”
In 1985, Brocato was named a battalion chief and made head of the department’s emergency medical services. It was during this time that the Riverchase Galleria was being built and Brocato saw the small fledging suburban fire department truly take off.
He recalls the one day the fire department “really grew up.” A call came in during a shift change for a fire that required the men to take a construction elevator to the top of an extremely tall building.
Throughout the 1980s, the Hoover EMS began to flourish, with an emphasis being placed on hiring only paramedics.
Growth continued into the 1990s with stations being added along Highway 150 and in the Lake Cyrus area.
Brocato said the city of Hoover is a special place to be a firefighter.
“Fire service is all about being a team. Working in Hoover has allowed us as firefighters to be associated with some great events,” he said, citing events such as the SEC tournament. “It’s really given us the chance to showcase our department.”
Brocato said he always shot for 62 as the age he would retire. In March, he was one of 12 retirees honored at a Hoover Fire Department promotions ceremony held at the Hoover Public Library.
“These retirees have a combined 320 years of service between them,” said Fire Chief John Wingate. “They understood their mission and have done a fantastic job with their work, command, and leadership.”
Brocato looks forward to spending more time with his wife, children and grandchildren. He also teaches classes to firefighers in Tuscaloosa.
Brocato is impressed with the Hoover Fire Department and confident in its future.
“It gives me a lot of gratification to see where we were, where we came from and where we are now,” he said. “God has just blessed me richly to allow me to be here. I wish I could do it 42 more years.”